Thursday, January 31, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 13 of 16

VI. Emotional arguments

When scriptures fail to convince people of what they want to believe, they almost always resort to emotional arguments. Afterall, it's because of their emotions that they usually come to bogus doctrines in the first place.

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3)
People believe what they want to believe, and the use of emotional arguments gives them away.

A. Refuting healing in the atonement destroys faith.

It seems true that people who believe in healing in the atonement often show more faith in their healing than other people. Should this be a good enough reason to believe in healing in the atonement? Of course not! If we believed things on the basis that they make us feel good, then our religion would be nothing more than a placebo. While some people are content to be fat, dumb, and happy, such an attitude convinces others that Christians are irrational, self-deluded nutcases.

Christianity should not be a blind leap into the darkness, but rather, a step into the light, as Hank Hanegraaff often says. If a thing is not true, then we should not believe in it. The fact that an idea makes us happy has no bearing on whether or not it is true. Mormons use this same reasoning to defend their belief that people will continue to be married for eternity. Telling a sick person their healing is not guaranteed is no worse than telling a Mormon that their marriage is going to end at death, or telling a child who just lost a tooth that there's no tooth fairy, or telling people who are worried about their dead loved ones that there's no spaceship behind commet Hail Bopp. If ever there is a right time to tell a person the truth, it would be when they have placed their hope in a false promise and entrusted their welfare to a false doctrine.

The question I most often hear is, "What is to be the basis of our faith in healing if not the guarantee of healing in the atonement?" I find it puzzling why anybody would need a guarantee before placing their faith in something. The Bible doesn't promise rain, and yet we pray in faith for rain. The atonement certainly doesn't guarantee our freedom from persecution, and yet we can pray in faith that we will be spared. The atonement doesn't cover our automobiles, and yet we pray in faith for a safe journey. Of course this is the very reason you hear about people "pleading the blood of Jesus," over inanimate objects. They want the object to be covered under the atonement as well. Just because we don't know what God's will is in every situation, it doesn't mean we shouldn't pray in faith for the things we need and want. Tabitha got sick and even died, but God raised her from the dead in answer to Peter's prayer. We have every reason to pray in faith for our healing even though it's not guaranteed, because we have a merciful God who is often willing to heal. Some proponents of the Word of Faith teaching say that to pray, "if it be your will," indicates a lack of faith and that it mocks God. On the contrary, praying, "if it be your will," is an act of humility. It acknowledges that God is sovereign and that he knows what's best for us better than we do. It means that we are subjecting ourselves to his will rather than our own, just as Jesus did.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:14)
The Bible has example after example of God healing people, so there is every reason for us to pray in faith that God will heal us. Nevertheless, we must pray according to God's will, and his will is not to heal in every situation. Even in the case of healing, we have Biblical precedent for praying, "if it is your will."
"A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy." (Matthew 8:2-3)
We don't always know what God's will is in every situation, which is why, contrary to the word of faith teaching, the Bible tells us that we should always say, "If it be your will."
"Going a little farther he [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

"But as he left, he promised, 'I will come back if it is God's will.' Then he set sail from Ephesus." (Acts 18:21)

"But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing." (1 Corinthians 4:19)

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:13-15)
We don't boss God around, and it's really a good thing that we don't because some of the things we ask for are not in our best interest. Garth Brooks wrote a song where he adequately illustrated why, "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." The more we grow in wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual maturity, the more clear God's will becomes to us (Romans 12:2), but none of us will ever know God's perfect will in every situation. Thankfully, we don't have to because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Paul said,
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8:26-27)
Ironically, though some say that refuting healing in the atonement destroys faith, often times, just the opposite is true. The teaching of healing in the atonement has destroyed the faith of many, and has prevented others from ever coming to faith. If healing were guaranteed in the atonement, we should expect the average Christian to be healthier than the average outsider, but that is not the case. From an outsider's point of view, Christianity is bogus because Christians believe things that aren't true. On average, believers are no healthier than unbelievers. They're about the same.

Most of us don't suffer from serious illnesses. At most, we suffer from colds, sore muscles, ulcers, and things like that. Since having a positive attitude can help these sicknesses, it's easy for a person to maintain belief in healing in the atonement amists these minor illnesses. But for quadraplegics, and those who suffer from other serious illnesses, having a positive attitude is not enough to bring about healing. When they are not healed, they undergo radical discofirmation. They are forced to believe either that healing was not guaranteed afterall, or that God doesn't exist. Unfortunately, many choose the latter. Some will argue that they probably didn't have enough faith to be healed. Such cannot be the case when we examine the fruit. A person's faith is evident in the actions he takes in support of that faith. If people throw away their medicine because they believe they are healed, we should not doubt their faith. But what are we to think when they subsequently die? Some condemn them as miserable sinners who refused to repent. It's easy for an outsider to say that somebody else is a miserable sinner without any faith, but for the person in the situation, it can fill them with dispair since they know better. Since we all sin, anybody can scratch up some sin that might've been the cause for their sickness, but if that's the route you take, then you can't say healing is guaranteed since we all sin. So the person has to be a habitual sinner needing to repent. This teaching leaves many in dispair, not realizing that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). It destroys them emotionally, and it often destroys them spiritually.

Continue to Part 14.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 12 of 16

V. How do people take advantage of healing in the atonement?

There are three different views in answer to this question. I'm sure there are more, but these seem to be the basic categories.

A. Instant upon salvation

If healing is provided for in the atonement along with forgiveness of sins, and if a person becomes saved immediately upon accepting the gospel, then people also ought to be completely free of physical maladies as soon as they become saved. According to this view, whenever a person gets saved, his entire slate is wiped clean. All past sins are forgiven, and all former ailments are eliminated as a result of coming under the healing blood of the atonement. The view further says that any future sins will be dealt with individually. Though a person who is saved should have a clean slate, he is able to "dirty" his slate later on. Any sin he commits could make him vulnerable to sickness again, and he may have to reap what he has sown for the rest of his life, which means his healing would never again be guaranteed. Ideally, if everybody lived like a Christian after they got saved, there would be no need for the gift of healing. In this view, the gift of healing seems to be a provision to restore fallen Christians.

B. Gift of healing

According to this view, a person who gets saved still may be oppressed by a demon or a sickness resulting from a generational spirit, a generational curse, or the effects of past sins. The person need only be delivered from whatever is ailing him, and he will from then on be immune to future sicknesses provided he doesn't return to a life of sin. The major problem with all of these views is that none of them have any basis in scripture. These are speculations people have to make to accomodate the inconsistencies in their theology. If a person believes in this teaching, then he can't use the argument that because Jesus died for sins, and sins cause sickness, that Jesus died for sickness, because it would not make sense that if both sin and sickness were covered under the atonement, that a person would have one thing immediately, and the other thing would require some additional means of grace to obtain. If a person is delivered from a physical malady by the gift of healing, then it was not the atonement that caused it.

C. Positive confession

This view is based on the scripture that says, "by his stripes we are healed." Because it says, "we are healed," in the present tense, many believe that once they are saved and under the atonement, they are already healed despite evidence to the contrary. Consequently, their apparent illnesses are only lying symptoms which are a ploy of the devil to rob a person of his joy and make a person doubt his healing. They believe that all one need do is "positively confess," that they are healed, and the healing will manifest itself. If people are going to use the fact that "we are healed," is written in the present tense to mean they are presently healed, then they would be led to the illogical conclusion that Christ atoned for their sins before he ever came to earth, because this scripture comes from Isaiah in the Old Testament, and it's written in the present tense in Isaiah as well. While it's true that having a positive attitude can have a great effect on a person's healing, words cannot create reality. Denying reality is nothing short of self-delusion. In many cases, the symptom itself is the disease. Can you imagine a person having lying symptoms of blindness but not actually being blind? That's absurd! If a person can't see, he's blind. The symptom is the disease. The Assemblies of God wrote an excellent position paper on positive confession called, "The Believer and Positive Confession," so rather than go into the positive confession teaching, I'll defer you to this document. I highly recommend it.

Continue to Part 13.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 11 of 16

Some people have recognized the inconsistency between healing in the atonement and the fact that people deteriorate and die. To account for it, they usually say that wearing glasses and having rickety bones is a natural part of the aging process. Many of them also admit that Paul's vision was likely failing him in his older years, but that this does not contradict healing in the atonement. I beg to differ. If God intends for us to live in perfect health until we die, that includes poor vision, poor hearing, blindness, deafness, diseases, stomach problems, headaches, deformities, arthritis, and any kind of physical malady whether you can technically lable it as a disease or not because anything short of that is not perfect health. Some people seem to think healing is guaranteed in the atonement provided you neither sin nor get old. It seems that healing is not guaranteed for old people. Some people actually admit this, and they use Psalm 90:10 as proof.

"The length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10)
It is argued that since God only gave us seventy years to live, then we come out from under his covering once we reach that age. I submit this as proof that a two-legged creature will believe anything. This scripture is only making an observation about the extent of the Israelites' lifespans, and there is nothing in the Bible to hint that God protects people from sickness who are younger than seventy and not those who are older. If seventy was a fixed number, it wouldn't have said, "or eighty, if we have the strength." Clearly, there is no fixed number for how long people live. We see in our own experience that some people have the strength to live a hundred years. Everybody has to die of something whether it be heart failure, stroke, lung failure, or whatever. Some part of the body has to give out and stop working. Everybody dies of something. Aging itself is the primary human disease from which we all suffer, regardless of how holy we live or what religion we belong to.

Noticing the above inconsistencies, other's have attempted to make distinctions about what kinds of physical maladies are covered under the atonement. What I usually hear is that only infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria are covered, and that deformities and abnormalities, such as poor vision, poor hearing, and missing or deformed limbs are not covered. This distinction, however, is nowhere found in the Bible. People in the ancient world were unaware of viruses and bacteria. They made no distinction between different kinds of physical ailments. Jesus healed every kind of problem people had, including physical deformity. He even raised people from the dead and cast out demons. If Jesus' healing ministry is any indication of what kinds of healings are guaranteed in the atonement, then we should expect to find that a Christian who is under the atonement will never be missing an arm, a leg, or even a finger or toe, and he can put his glasses and his hearing aid away. But if Jesus' healing ministry is irrelevant to what is covered under the atonement, then proponents of healing in the atonement should not use his healing ministry as a pretext to support healing in the atonement.

Continue to Part 12.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 10 of 16

There are several Old Testament scriptures used to support the idea that healing is guaranteed for today. To be brief, I will just mention two of the more popular ones. By analogy, what I say will apply to the rest of them that I haven't listed here.

"Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span." (Exodus 23: 25)

"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases." (Psalm 103:2-3)
There are three problems with using these scriptures to indicate that healing is guaranteed, that it is always God's will to heal, and that Satan is always the author of sickness.

1. These scriptures do not guarantee perfect health for everybody. They are general principles. They merely indicate that God heals, which I agree with, but they don't guarantee healing. If these scriptures were meant to be taken in an absolute sense as if it were a guarantee, there would be no exceptions. Yet we find in the scriptures that Solomon noticed an exception.

"In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness." (Ecclesiastes 7:15)
In general, if we live wisely and obey God, we will enjoy better health and longer lives because the things God requires of us are in our best interest. Also, if we live holy lives, God is going to be more favourably disposed to grant our requests. In the scriptures, we find that, "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable" (Proverbs 28:8).

2. These scriptures were written well before Jesus' atonement, so they cannot be used to support healing in the atonement. If these scriptures did guarantee healing, it would not be because of the atonement. We can especially see that Exodus 23:25 does not apply absolutely to Christians today because it says, "I will give you a full life span." Taken absolutely, we should assume that all good Christians should enjoy a full life span with no exceptions. That wasn't even true in the Old Testament because Solomon noticed that sometimes the righteous die young, and the wicked live long (Ecclesiastes 7:15), and we know that even while Israel was prosperous in war, they still lost young soldiers. Likewise, we find that martyrdom was a popular way to die in the early church. Jesus predicted that "you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me" (Matthew 24:9), and that Stephen, who was "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5), was stoned to death (Acts 7:59). If a full life span was not absolutely guaranteed for all of God's people, then we should not assume that physical healing was guaranteed either since Exodus 23:25 lumps them together. Instead, it's a general principle, just as the Proverbs which give practical advice for making people's lives better.

3. As I showed above, God was frequently the author of sickness in the Old Testament and the New Testament, even on his own people. For the Old Testament examples, proponents of healing in the atonement will argue that "that was under the old covenant; we're under a new covenant now." This is a popular argument used to diffuse almost any kind of disagreeable doctrine supported by Old Testament scriptures, but the same people who use this argument will gladly quote from the Old Testament when there's a scripture to support their view. If healing in the atonement proponents really want to use this argument, then they can't use Exodus 23:25 and Psalm 103:2-3 to support the guarantee of perfect health today since they are also under the old covenant. They can't have it both ways.

Continue to Part 11.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 9 of 16

The belief in healing in the atonement leads to the belief that Satan is always the author of sickness and that God never causes sickness. The argument comes from the idea that if healing is in the atonement, then it must always be God's will to heal, and if it's always God's will to heal, then it is never God's will to inflict sickness, so if people are sick, it must be because of the devil. Sin is what makes a person vulnerable to Satan's power to make people sick. First, I will look at some of the scriptures used to support these ideas, and then I will show from the scriptures that these ideas are false.

"When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick." (Matthew 8:16)
The argument goes like this:

  • Jesus healed all the sick.
  • Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

  • Therefore, it's is Jesus' will to heal all the sick today.

This argument fails because the first premise is not true. The word "all," does not necessarily mean every single person. Take Mark 1:5 for example. It says, "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." Surely Mark didn't mean for us to think that every single person in Jerusalem went to John to be baptized. When we look at the parallel passages, it becomes obvious that "all" and "many" are used interchangeably, and not so stricly as some would have us believe. Matthew 8:16 says many were brought to Jesus and all were healed. Mark 1:32-33 says all were brought to Jesus and many were healed. Luke 4:40 says all were brought to Jesus and he healed them. Even if Matthew 8:16 meant that every person there was healed, the argument would still fail because it would only say that Jesus healed everybody on a particular day in a particular location. It wouldn't mean he healed everybody everywhere at all times. The scriptures show that Jesus did not heal everybody everywhere. When Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, there were a great number of disabled people there hoping to be healed when the water was stirred. Jesus only healed one of them (see John 5:2-15).

Furthermore, by the same kind of reasoning as above, one could conclude that God inflicts sickness on his own people.

  • God inflicted sickness on his own people in the past.
  • God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:7)
  • Therefore, It is God's will to inflict sickness on his own people today.

Many people deny the first premise, so here are some examples:

[These were originally in an endnote.)

"I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life." (Leviticus 26:16)

"The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish." (Deuteronomy 28:21-22)

"The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind." (Deuteronomy 28:27-28)

"The LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. He will bring upon you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. The LORD will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this book of law, until you are destroyed." (Deuteronomy 28:59-61)

"The LORD's hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors." (1 Samuel 5:6)

"He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors." (1 Samuel 5:9) "After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill." (2 Samuel 12:15)

"As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, 'Strike these people with blindness.' So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked." (2 Kings 6:18)

"The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house." (2 King 15:5) (There's a footnote on "leprosy" that says 'The Hebrew word was used for various diseases affecting the skin-not necessarily leprosy.')

"After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain." (2 Chronicals 21:18-19)

"So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them." (Psalm 106:15)

"Therefore, the LORD, the LORD Almight, will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors." (Isaiah 10:16)

"Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins." (Micah 6:13)

"And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." (Luke 1:19-20)

"'Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.' Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand." (Acts 13:11)

Continue to Part 10.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 8 of 16

There are several other approaches used to prove that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. One reasons that since Jesus died for sins, and all sickness results from sin, then Jesus must've also died for sickness. By the same principle, Jesus died for anything that sin causes. The argument goes like this:

  • Jesus died for sins.
  • Sickness results from sins.
  • Therefore, Jesus died for sickness.

In a manner of speaking, this is true. All of the ills of the world came about somehow because of the original sin. Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and the entire world, including Adam's descendents, were cursed as a result. We live in a fallen, sin-stained world. Jesus died to free us from it, and eventually, both our bodies and the cosmos will be renewed to their original perfection. That time, however, has not yet come. It won't come until the resurrection. So while it's true that in a manner of speaking, Jesus died so that we could be free, not only from sickness, but also from death, pain, and sorrow, these benefits of the atonement will not be realized until the resurrection. By the same analogy as the above argument, one could say that because "Christ died for sins," (1 Corinthians 15:3) and, "the wages of sin is death," (Romans 6:23) it follows therefore that Christians should not die.

  • Jesus died for sins.

  • The wages of sin is death.

  • Therefore Christians should not die.

This argument fails because the benefit of immortality comes at the resurrection, and not before. Likewise, perfect health is not guaranteed until the resurrection. One might argue:

  • Jesus healed during his ministry.
  • Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
  • Therefore, it is not God's will that any should be sick today.

The conclusion does not follow from the premises. It would be more accurate to conclude that God still heals today, which I would agree with. Again, the absurdity of this argument can be shown by taking it to its logical conclusion.

  • Jesus raised people from the dead.

  • Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  • Therefore, it is not God's will that any should die today.

Again, it would be more accurate to say God raises people from the dead today, which is rare if it happens at all. We know that everybody, Christian or not, dies once, therefore, this reasoning cannot be valid. When Jesus raised people from the dead, he did not raise them immortal. They would still have to die. So those raisings were only a taste of what was to come. Jesus will raise us to immortality in the resurrection. Likewise, Jesus' healings were only a taste of what was to come at the time of the resurrection. At the resurrection, we will all enjoy perfect health, but not until then. In the meantime, God will heal people for his glory, as in the case of Lazarus and Tabitha, or because of his mercy, as he healed Epaphroditus.

"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messsenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow." (Philippians 2:25-27)
Paul goes on to tell the Philippians to "honor men like him," because he risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ when he was sent to help Paul. Paul seemed to hold him in high regard, rather than blaming his sickness on personal sin. We should not, therefore, assume that a person's sickness is the result of personal sin. God healed Epaphroditus because of his mercy, and not because his healing was guaranteed.

The absurdity of many of the arguments used to support healing in the atonement can be shown by taking them to their logical conclusions. If everything Jesus died for means that we should enjoy the privileges of them today, then Christians should already be immortal. Yet every single person, Christian or not, will die. "Man is destined to die once." (Hebrews 9:27) We will not enjoy all the privileges of the atonement until the resurrection when our bodies are changed from perishable to imperishable, and from mortal to immortal.

Continue to Part 9.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 7 of 16

IV. Scriptural Arguments

The doctrine of healing in the atonement rests primarily on the words, "by his stripes we are healed," so I want to continue this discussion by having a look at Isaiah 53. I recommend reading it before continuing, and then following along as I discuss it. Isaiah 53 is one of the most comprehensive prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament. It talks about each stage of his life. This is how I would break it down:

  • His childhood. Isaiah 53:2
His rejection by his fellow Jews. Isaiah 53:2-3
His healing ministry. Isaiah 53:4

  • His suffering for sins. Isaiah 53:5-7

  • His death. Isaiah 53:8
His burial. Isaiah 53:9
His resurrection. Isaiah 53:10-11
His exaltation. Isaiah 53:12

What I want to focus on now is Isaiah 53:4 and Isaiah 53:5. If you'll notice above, I made a division between these two verses. Verse 4 is about the healing ministry of Jesus, and verse 5 begins his suffering for sins. This distinction becomes more clear when these two scriptures are quoted as proof texts in the New Testament. Verse 4 says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." It's clear from Isaiah 53:4 that it is talking about physical ailments, but it's even more explicit when Matthew quotes it.

"When evening came, many who were demon posessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" (Matthew 8:16-17)
Since Matthew is using Isaiah 53:4 as a proof text for Jesus' healing ministry, it's obvious that Isaiah 53:4 has physical healing in mind. This scripture, however, cannot be used to support the doctrine of healing in the atonement because this prophecy was fulfilled during Jesus' healing ministry before the atonement ever took place. Since it is not associated with the atonement, it cannot be argued from this scripture that our healing is guaranteed because of the atonement.

Starting with Isaiah 53:5, the author begins to strongly emphasize the suffering of the Messiah for sins by saying the same thing over and over in several different ways. Four times, he says he suffered for our sins. Then twice he says everybody sins, and then one last time, he repeats that he suffered for our sins.

"But he was pierced for our transgression,." [i.e. He suffered for our sins.]

"he was crushed for our iniquities;" [i.e. He suffered for our sins.]

"the punishement that brought us peace was upon him," [i.e. He suffered for our sins.]

"and by his wounds we are healed." [i.e. He suffered for our sins.]

"We all like sheep have gone astray," [i.e. We are all sinners.]

"each of us has turned to his own way;" [i.e. We are all sinners.]

"and the Lord has layed on him the iniquity of us all." [i.e. He suffered for our sins.]
It would be quite odd and out of place if there, in the middle of these lines, the author had physical healing in mind when he said, "by his wounds we are healed." The pattern makes it emphatically clear that the author has in mind spiritual healing from sin, transgression, iniquity, waywardness, etc. The Hebrew word for "healed," in that passage is "raphah," which is used metaphorically many times in the Old Testament to indicate things such as healing [purifying] water (2 Kings 2:19-22), healing [sending rain on and restraining locusts from] land (2 Chronicals 7:13-14), and healing [changing] people's backsliding and waywardness (Jermiah 3:22, Hosea 14:4), which is the way it's used in Isaiah 53:5. When we see how it is used in the New Testament, it becomes even more clear that the author has spiritual healing in mind.
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25)
Here, Peter says that we were backsliding (like sheep going astray), and that Jesus bore our sins on the cross so that we might stop sinning, live for righteousness, and return to the shepherd and overseer of our souls, and his proof text is Isaiah 53:5. Peter uses the scripture the way it was intended in Isaiah to mean spiritual healing from sin and waywardness. It could not be more clear, and yet this is the primary scripture that gets used to support physical healing in the atonement by isolating it from its context and reading into it what people want to hear.

Continue to Part 8.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 6 of 16

B. Paul was not sick at all.

This is the minority view for obvious reasons. First of all, this view is highly speculative. Second, practically all Greek scholars agree that Paul was physically ill, which is why all the Bible translations translate Galatians 4:13 as, "illness," (NIV, NCV) "bodily illness," (NAS) "infirmity of the flesh," (ASV, KJV, YLT) "sickness," (NLT) or, "physical infirmity," (NRSV). The two major reasons for this are (1) the Greek of the passage , and (2) the internal evidence.

1. The Greek of the passage.

The word used for Paul's illness is "astheneian," which literally means "weakness." This is the most commonly used word in Greek to refer to physical illness, though it is sometimes used figuratively to mean inadequacy, impotence, etc.

"769. [My original article used Greek fonts, but I don't know how to do that in HTML, so I'll just bracket these off and use the transliterations.] astheneia; gen. astheneias, fem. noun from asthenes (772), weak, sick. Weakness, sickness. In the NT, this word and related words, asthenes (772), weak, sick, and astheneo (770), to be sick or weak, are the most common expressions for illness and are used in the comprehensive sense of the whole man. However, it can also refer to a special form of bodily weakness or sickness. Figuratively, astheneia can mean general impotence, weakness (Rom. 8:26)." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG International, Inc.) 1992)

"NT. Disease is normally described by the Gk. nouns astheneia (weakness), malakia (misfortune)-used three times in Mt. only, or the Verbs astheneo` (to weaken) or kako`s echein (lit. 'to have badly') and once (Jas. 5:15) kamno` (to be ill, to ail)." (The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.)
In a footnote, I have gone through all the uses of "astheneia" and its variant forms in the New Testament to see how it is used. [See Part 16.] Although "astheneia" is used to refer to inadequacy, imperfection, corruptibility, and actual sickness, it most often refers to physical illness. Nevertheless, it should be defined by the context in which it is used, which is different from place to place.

In Galatians, Paul tells us the specific kind of astheneia he was suffering from. He uses the phrase, "astheneian tes sarkos," which literally means "weakness of the flesh." So it was a physical weakness, which again is why the NAS calls it a "bodily illness," and why just about every other translation calls it a sickness, an infirmity of the flesh, or some kind of phrase implying that there was something physically wrong with Paul.

2. Internal evidence

One of the reasons people have differences in opinion over the meaning of certain scriptures is because certain words or phrases can be used in different ways, and people disagree on the way it's used in a particular passage because they insist on using it in the same way it's used in a different passage. The best way to determine how a certain word or phrase is being used in a particular passage is to consider the immediate context. In Galatians 4:13-14, Paul says,

"As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."
As I said before, the last sentence has caused some to speculate that there was something wrong with Paul's eyes. That may be possible, but I do not believe it's necessarily true. There are a few things to note about this passage:

(1) Paul's astheneia was the reason he first preached to the Galatians.

(2) Paul's astheneia was a burden to the Galatians.

(3) Paul was welcomed with open arms in spite of his astheneia.

(4) Paul's astheneia was temporary.

All of this leads us to the inescapable conclusion that there was something physically wrong with Paul. His astheneia (in this context) was not mere mortality, because it was temporary. His astheneia was not opposition because he was welcomed with open arms. Just as the apostles wrongly assumed a man born blind was so because of sin, so also most people during those days believed that any kind of physical malady was the result of sin. It is for that reason Paul acknowledged that they did not treat him with contempt or scorn. They might have rejected his message due to their assumption that he was a sinner, but they didn't. He likely got stuck in Galatia because he couldn't travel due to his sickness, and that's how his sickness became the reason he first preached the gospel to the Galatians. His sickness was a burden to them because they had to nurse him back to health and take care of him. Paul usually worked with his hands when he was in any town so that he wouldn't be a burden to anybody (1 Thessalonians 2:9). He was unable to do so in Galatia because he was sick.

God has often used sickness to manifest his Glory. This was the case with Tabitha.

"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, 'Please come at once!' Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, get up.' She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord." (Acts 9:36-42)
Just as God used blindness to manifest his glory in one person's life (John 9:3), and he used sickness and death to manifest his glory in another person's life (John 11:4), God also used Paul's sickness as an opportunity to spread the gospel. Likewise, God continues to use sickness to draw people to him today.

Continue to Part 7.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 5 of 16

3. The scriptures do show that sickness can be the result of sin. Jesus warned the man he healed at the pool of Bethesda to, "stop sinning or something worse may happen to you" (John 5:14). However, not all sickness is a result of personal sin. In the gospel of John, there's a story of a man born blind. Like many of the healing in the atonement proponents, Jesus' disciples wrongly assumed that his blindness had to have been the result of either his own sin or his parent's sin, but Jesus corrected them, showing them that sometimes sickness has a greater purpose.

"His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" (John 9:2-3)
Some will argue that this scripture doesn't mean that all sickness is not a result of sin because even though he and his parents may not have sinned, one of his ancestors may have. At the least, Adam sinned. All sickness ultimately had its roots in Adam's sin. Hopefully the person making this argument will realize that in doing so, he has refuted his own belief that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. If a person can get sick, not as a result of his own sin, but as a result of Adam's sin, then none of our healings are guaranteed because getting sick would not require us to commit a personal sin. Adam has already committed one for us. To remain consistent with the belief in guaranteed healing, one must argue that only personal sin can cause a person to get sick, because otherwise, nobody's healing would ever be guaranteed. But Jesus has told us otherwise. The man was not born blind because of personal sin.

Likewise, we find that Job's many afflictions had nothing at all to do with sin. Repeatedly, the book of Job says that Job was, "blameless and upright" (Job 1:1). It was because Job was blameless and upright that Satan requested permission to test him by killing his family, removing his wealth, and striking his body with a disease of the skin.

"Then the LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, he is blamless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.' 'Skin for skin!' Satan replied. 'A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.' The LORD said to Satan, 'Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.' So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head." (Job 2:3-7)

Continue to Part 6.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 4 of 16

A. Paul became sick as a result of some personal sin.

Some people believe Paul had something wrong with his eyes because he said, "if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me." I personally think that's a little speculative, but the exact physical ailment he had is irrelevent in this discussion. There are several problems with this view. The most frequent explanation given by healing in the atonement proponents for why all Christians do not enjoy perfect health is because of sin. In this view, when a person sins, he comes out from under the covering of the blood of the atonement and becomes vulnerable to sickness. All sickness, therefore, is a result of personal sin. The argument can be summarized this way:

  • Sin causes a person to come out from under the blood of the atonement.
  • If a person is not covered by the blood, he will be vulnerable to sickness.
  • Therefore, all sickness is a result of personal sin.

There are three major problems with this argument.

1. If healing is guaranteed in the atonement only when we do not sin, and everybody sins, then nobody's healing is really guaranteed. In summary:

  • Perfect health is guaranteed for the believer unless he sins.
  • Everybody sins. (1 John 1:8)
  • Therefore perfect health is not guaranteed for any believer.

It would be quite the cruel joke for God to dangle something in front of us knowing we could never have it. Some will argue that an isolated sin now and again is not enough to cause a person to come out from under the blood of the atonement, but rather, if a person habitually sins, he will come out from under the blood of the atonement and become vulnerable to sickness. The problem with this argument is that the person making it has to defame Paul's character, making him out to be a habitual sinner. But we have already shown that Paul was an exemplary Christian, urging people to imitate his way of life. (1 Corinthians 4:16) We have also seen that the disciple, Tabitha, was commended for always doing good, rather than being condemned for habitually sinning. The only alternative is to go with the second argument, that Paul was not physically sick at all. Of course, we can't use that with Tabitha because we know she was physically ill. She died from it.

There are some churches who are consistent in their view of sin and sickness. The "holiness" churches believe that a Christian can live a sinless life. Some of them go so far as to say that if a person is saved, he will never sin at all--not even an isolated sin. Because holiness is such a major debate, it would require a seperate article for me to adequately refute this view, so I'll just let it go for now, and maybe if I ever write that article, I'll add the link to it right here.

2. If healing is guaranteed in the atonement, and a person is not healed, then he is not covered under the blood of the atonement. Healing in the atonement proponents will agree with me on this point. The argument goes like this:

  • Healing is guaranteed in the atonement.

  • Bob is not healed.

  • Therefore, Bob is not under the blood of the atonement.

Now watch what happens when we replace Bob with the Apostle Paul.

  • Healing is guaranteed in the atonement.
  • Paul was sick.

  • Therefore, Paul was not under the blood of the atonement.

This should immediately look peculiar to you, and I will tell you why. The blood of Jesus is what saves us. Jesus shed his blood on the cross for our sins, as I showed above. That's what the atonement covers. So if a person is not under the blood of the atonement, then that person is not saved. Jesus atoned for our sins. That's what atonement is. In summary:

  • If a person is sick, then they are not under the blood of the atonement.
  • If they are not under the blood of the atonement, then they are not saved.
  • Therefore, if a person is sick, then they are not saved.

Most of you should immediately see the problem with this view. You want to reject the conclusion because it seems unreasonable to think that Paul lost his salvation, and worse, that he was evangelizing the Galatians as an unsaved person. But if the two premises are true, then the conclusion logically follows. So the only way to reject the conclusion is to reject one of the premises. The second premise is obviously true. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Nobody goes to the Father except by him. Nobody will be saved if he rejects the gospel that Jesus atoned for sins by dying for them, and that he rose from the dead. The only option is to reject the first premise. Therefore, not every sick person is sick because he came out from under the blood of the atonement.

There actually are people who would agree with the above argument on the basis that (1) a person can lose his salvation, and (2) a person can live a sinless life. People don't come in and out from under the blood of the atonement because of sin. The blood of the atonement covers sins. That's what it's for. I completely reject the notion that a sick person is an unsaved person because we find in the Bible that several Christians got sick, and some even died. Paul's conversion experience was marked by blindness (Acts 9:3-9). Paul became ill in Galatia (Galatians 4:13). Many of the Corinthian Christians became sick, and some died from sickness (1 Corinthians 11:30). Trophimus was unable to travel with Paul because he became sick (2 Timothy 4:19). Paul urged Timothy to drink some wine for his frequent stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23). Epaphroditus was sick and almost died from it (Philippians 2:25-30). Tabitha became sick and did die from it (Acts 9:36-37). Besides all that, we find in our own experience, devout and sincere Christians who suffer from all kinds of physical maladies. Surely we don't think they are all unsaved, yet there are some who think they are!

There are a few people who believe that a person may be sick and yet be under the blood of the atonement. In this view, an otherwise healthy Christian commits a sin, comes out from under the blood of the atonement, gets sick, repents from the sin, becomes covered under the blood of the atonement again, but the person may have to reap the consequences of that sin for the rest of their life. In other words, if a person gets sick as a result of sin, he may have to continue being sick for the rest of his life because of that sin even though he has repented and come back under the blood of the atonement. The problem with this view seems obvious. If this theory is true, then healing is not guaranteed for the person in this situation. That's essentially what this view is. That means that healing is guaranteed for everybody who gets saved, but if they get sick even once as a result of sin, then for the rest of their lives, their healing will not be guaranteed. (Are there many of us who have not at least suffered from a cold or a headache?) In that case, it makes no sense for them to say that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. If healing were guaranteed in the atonement, then they ought to be healed immediately upon repenting from the sin that caused their sickness and upon placing faith in their healing.

Continue to Part 5.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 3 of 16

III. The fall and the restoration

The first thing we have to recognize is how this world got into such bad shape. Then we will look at God's plan for restoring the world to its original perfection. Regardless of whether you interpret the Genesis story literally or figuratively, it seems that the entire world, including our bodies, became cursed as a result of sin. God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:17-19)

Since then, we have lived in an imperfect world. The ground has been cursed. We continue to bear the stain of the original sin. The results of the original sin include both natural and moral evil. Because of it, we ourselves have sinful natures. We are all born predisposed to sin. Nobody ever has to teach their children to be selfish or to lie. They are born concerned about their own self-gratification, and they figure out on their own how to lie and manipulate to serve their self-gratifying natures. We try to teach them not to live according to their sinful natures. Likewise, we all sin against God because of our fallen human natures. We have also all become susceptible to sickness and death.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
It would seem that Satan succeeded in destroying a creation God once called "good," (Genesis 1:31) but then along came Jesus. Jesus was born "in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering," (Romans 8:3) yet he never sinned.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
Because Jesus was able to live a sinless life in the midst of a fallen world, he was able to become a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. He paid the pentalty for our sins by dying on the cross, and then he also defeated death by rising from the dead.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
For those of us who put their faith in this gospel, we too will reap the benefits of Christ's victory over sin and death since it was for us that he won this victory.
"For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
The realization of this victory will begin at the resurrection when Christ returns, and will culminate 1000 years later in new heavens and a new earth free from the curse that resulted from the original sin.
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4)
At the resurrection, our bodies will be changed. They will no longer be susceptible to sickness and death, but until then, they still bear the scars of the fall.
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)
Paul makes it very clear that though, when we are saved, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30) who is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5), we have not yet attained it. It is something we hope for, and nobody hopes for what he already has.
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (Romans 8:22-25)
Physical healing, therefore, is not guaranteed in the here and now. God has never promised that our bodies would be free from the consequences of original sin until the resurrection. If he had, we would never die because dying was part of the curse. If any Christian had perfect health, he would not be blind, he would not have any missing limbs, he would not have to wear glasses, he would never lose his hearing, his body would never deteriorate, he would never get old, and he would never die. In the Bible, however, we find that, "man is destined to die once." (Hebrews 9:27) Not only that, but we also have Christians who, while commended for doing good, nevertheless became sick.
"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room." (Acts 9:36-37)
We also find that Paul, who said, "Therefore, I urge you to imitate me," (1 Corinthians 4:16) and was therefore an example for Christians to follow, suffered from a bodily illness.
"As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me." (Galatians 4:14-15)
Proponents of the "healing in the atonement" doctrine deal with this scripture in one of two ways. They either say that (1) Paul became sick as a result of some personal sin, or they say that (2) Paul was not sick at all, but that his illness (literally "weakness" in the Greek) had more to do with opposition and persecution. I will examine both of these views individually.

Continue to Part 4.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 2 of 16

II. History

The only passage in the New Testament that explicitly ties healing with Christ's suffering is 1 Peter 2:24, which says, "by his wounds you have been healed." As I will show later in this article, the healing referred to in this passage is spiritual, not physical, so there is no explicit evidence that "healing in the atonement" was ever taught in the first century.

From the first few centuries of the church, any evidence that even remotely addresses the question at hand is scant, so it seems that the concept of healing in the atonement was rarely if ever even considered. I was only able to find two references.

"Consequently, therefore, though disease, and accident, and what is most terrible of all, death, come upon the Gnostic, he remains inflexible in soul,-knowing that all such things are a necessity of creation, and that, also by the power of God, they become the medicine of salvation, benefiting by discipline those who are difficult to reform; allotted according to desert, by Providence, which is truly good." Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) Stromata VII, xi

Clement believed that sickness, disease, old age, and death were a natural part of being human whether one was a Christian or not, and that it was fitting for people to see a doctor if they got sick, but that such calamities also have refining qualities.

"But nevertheless it disturbs some that the power of this Disease attacks our people equally with the heathens, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills; and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy. It disturbs some that this mortality is common to us with others; and yet what is there in this world which is not common to us with others, so long as this flesh of ours still remains, according to the law of our first birth, common to us with them? So long as we are here in the world, we are associated with the human race in fleshly equality, but are separated in spirit. Therefore until this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal receive immortality, and the Spirit lead us to God the Father, whatsoever are the disadvantages of the flesh are common to us with the human race. Thus, when the earth is barren with an unproductive harvest, famine makes no distinction; thus, when with the invasion of an enemy any city is taken, captivity at once desolates all; and when the serene clouds withhold the rain, the drought is alike to all; and when the jagged rocks rend the ship, the shipwreck is common without exception to all that sail in her; and the disease of the eyes, and the attack of fevers, and the feebleness of all the limbs is common to us with others, so long as this common flesh of ours is borne by us in the world." Cyprian (c. 250), Treatise VII On the Mortality, 8
Cyprian clearly believed that sickness and disease were just as common among Christians as among unbelievers. He didn't believe we should be immune as long as our bodies were mortal. He believed the joy of perfect health was reserved for the future when our bodies would be resurrected. I could not find anybody from the early church who disagreed with Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian. So the only evidence concerning healing in the atonement from the early church shows that they did not believe in healing in the atonement, and they seemed to hardly even think about it even though they did believe in the gift of healing as late as the 4th century.

From then on, there is no evidence at all I'm aware of that healing in the atonement was ever taught until the beginning of the 20th century at the dawn of the charismatic renewal movement. There were a few people teaching that healing was guaranteed in the atonement from about 1901. Among them were Charles Parham, and a disciple of his, William Seymour, who founded the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California in 1906. The revival going on at Azusa Street was the origin of most Pentecostal/charismatic churches today. Among those that still teach that healing is in the atonement include the Assemblies of God, the Church of God of Prophecy, the United Pentecostal Church, the International Church of the Four Square Gospel, and a plethora of television evangelists and independent charismatic churches.

Continue to Part 3.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 1 of 16

About 19 years ago, I wrote an article refuting the doctrine of "healing in the atonement." For a long time I've wanted to re-write it to kind of update it to my thinking and style of arguing now, but I haven't done it. Today (1/18/2019), I ran into somebody on line who was aggressively pushing this doctrine, which made me decide to go ahead and post it. I'm not going to bother to update it, so it may contain a few things here and there that I wouldn't say today, but I still agree with the main thrust of it. This article is kind of long, so I'm posting it in parts. I won't leave you in too much suspense, though. I'll post each part one day apart. Hopefully I won't have anything pressing to say in the middle of it.


I. Introduction

Healing theology can be broken into three major categories: 1. the belief that God no longer heals today, 2. the belief that God can and does heal today, and 3. the belief that healing is guaranteed under the atonement. In this article, I will be arguing for the middle view, that God can and does heal today, but that healing is not guaranteed in the atonement.

First I want to make a clarification about the phrase, "healing in the atonement." Christ's atonement provided us with a means to obtain a resurrection to eternal life with no more sickness, death, or suffering, so in that sense, yes, healing was provided for in the atonement. What I will be discussing is the popular teaching of healing in the atonement which teaches that the realization of all the benefits of the atonement belong to us in the here and now. That means that all Christians ought to be completely free of sickness, disease, and any kind of physical malady. The only thing standing between a Christian and perfect health is sin or a lack of faith, because healing is the privilege of all believers. In this article, I will argue that though Christ's atoning sacrifice provided a way for all of us to be free from sickness, pain, death, and sorrow, the realization of these provisions will not come until the resurrection, which Paul calls, "the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23).

This discussion will touch on several peripheral issues such as the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, the source of sickness, holiness, the word of faith (i.e. "name it and claim it" or "positive confession") teaching, original sin, and the believer's assurance of salvation (i.e. whether or not you can lose your salvation). It's necessary to discuss the peripheral issues, but it would take a book to treat them in any kind of detail, so I'll try to stay focused on the main point and only discuss the peripheral issues to a minimum extent.

There are many different versions of the "healing in the atonement" doctrine, so not everybody who believes in it will believe every aspect of it that I discuss. I want to cover as broad of a range of understandings of it as I can without the article becoming too diluted to be able to follow. I probably won't cover the different versions exhaustively or in much detail. If you happen to believe that physical healing in the here and now is guaranteed in the atonement, please don't be put off by the fact that you don't believe in everything that I attempt to refute in this article. I'm not attempting to erect a straw man in order to tear it down. I'm trying to cover as many versions of the teaching as I can. If one of the points of the teaching I try to refute seems to you to be a misrepresentation of what you believe, it's probably the case that I'm not representing your belief at all, but somebody else's, and the fact that what I am refuting does not apply to you does not mean that physical healing is provided for in the atonement. It merely means that that particular argument does not apply to you. Failure to prove one thing does not prove the opposite thing.

I want to make a clear distinction between healing in the atonement and healing in general. I believe that God can and does heal people today. I believe in the perpetuity of the gift of healing. God may heal people in answer to prayer, and he may empower some with the gift of healing. What I am arguing against is the idea that physical healing is guaranteed. Too many people mistakenly assume that if a person doesn't believe in healing in the atonement that the person doesn't believe in healing at all, and that's just not the case.

Continue to Part 2.

Friday, January 18, 2019

An argument for epiphenomenalism from materialism

I don't know if this is a sound argument or not. I came up with it just last night. I thought I'd post it here in case anybody wants to comment on it.

First, let me define "epiphenomenalism" and "materialism." Materialism is the view that only material things exist. For the purposes of this post, this means there isn't an immaterial soul spirit that haunts your brain. There's just a brain. Epiphenomenalism is the view that the brain gives rise to mental phenomena (like sensation, thought, desire, emotion, etc.), but the direction causation does not go in the other direction. In other words, the mind that emerges from the brain cannot have any causal influence over the brain. The mind, in that case, is just a passive observer. This would entail that volition is an illusion since you can't cause anything to happen in your body by desiring or willing it to happen.

This guy I was talking to last night is a software developer. He used a computer as an analogy for how he understands the relationship between humans and minds. He said you can talk about a computer with various levels of abstraction. On the bottom level, you've just got electrons and atoms in motion obeying the laws of physics. A layer up, you've got logic gates that either allow or disallow electricity to flow. Close to that level (and maybe on the same level), you've got 1's and 0's. Then you've got machine code, then software code, and up and up the layers go until you have the semantic meaning. In the same way, you can describe the brain at the level of atoms or at the level of mind, but the mind is basically the same thing. It's just abstracted on a higher level.

I questioned him on whether there was causal interaction between these different levels of abstraction. My next question was going to be whether he thought the direction of causation went both ways or only one way. He didn't seem to think there was causation in either direction because these are just different levels of abstraction. They're actually the same thing, so causal interaction doesn't come into play.

So I switched gears, and this is what made me think of the argument. Even if there's no chain of causation the way we usually think about it, there is at least some sort of logical connection. The activity of the individual atoms determines, in some way, the function of the software. Whether it does that by the mechanism of causation doesn't matter for the purpose of my point. What I wanted to know was whether the activity of the individual atoms was determined by the function of the software in the same way that the function of the software determines the position of the atoms. I didn't get a clear answer, but let me explain the argument I came up with.

It seems clear that if a certain arrangement or activity of subatomic particles produces a certain outcome on the macro-level, then whenever you repeat those exact same conditions on the micro-level, you will get the exact same conditions on the macro-level. You can't not get the same results if the underlying physical structure and activity is exactly the same.

But it doesn't work the other way around. Let's say you have two different computer programers write code for a procedure that takes some inputs, performs some function, and gives you an output. The two programmers could write different code to accomplish the same thing. If you were looking at the computer screen, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. You'd see the same prompt for your input, and you'd get the same output. There'd be no way to tell that the underlying code was different.

What all this means is that in cases of properties that emerge in a macroscopic way from underlying microscopic conditions, the stuff at the bottom level determines the stuff at the top level, but the stuff at the top level does not determine the stuff at the bottom level. So if the mind is an emergent property of the brain, then the brain activity would determine the content of the mind, but nothing about the mind would have any influence on the brain activity. The direction of "causation" only goes in one direction.

One weakness to this argument is that you couldn't have just any code perform the same function. There are limits. So you might say that the top layer of abstractions puts some constrains on the lower levels, in which case it would appear to have some determining influence.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Do atheists exist?

Some people don't think atheists exists because of what Paul said in Romans 1:18-21.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
I'm not convinced that Paul is saying that everybody knows God exists. Let me walk through this passage and explain why. The first part tells us the people Paul is talking about. It's talking about people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Concerning these people, Paul is condemning their ungodliness and unrighteousness. So already, Paul isn't necessarily talking about everybody. It could be that some are atheists because they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and others are atheists for other reasons. Maybe they've never heard of God. Maybe they are honestly persuaded that God doesn't exist due to arguments from incoherence or the problem of evil. Or maybe they are just suspicious because of all the diversity in religions and the fact that they have yet to be persuaded that there is a God.

You might think, though, that Paul is closing the gap on honest atheists when he says that "that which is known about God is evident within them." It would seem that Paul is referring to general revelation that all people are privy to, in which case he's implying that everybody knows, deep down, that God exists. I'm not so sure, though. Paul may mean that they could know if they'd simply think about it carefully and honestly because the evidence is right there staring them in the face.

Paul goes on to talk about how God's attributes are evident in nature and can be clearly seen, and that leaves people without excuse. I don't think this implies that people aren't really atheists. It just means there's no excuse for being an atheist. It would be like saying there's no excuse for me not knowing to use backing soda in my banana nut bread instead of baking powder since it's written right there in my recipe. Granted, I have no excuse for not knowing, but it wouldn't follow that I do know. I may not know because I may not be looking at the recipe, reading it, or paying attention.

Next, Paul said, "For even though they knew God. . ." This, it seems to me, indicates that the people he's talking about actually do know that God exists. But again, he may not be talking about everybody who denies the existence of God. He may be talking about a subset of those people.

On the other hand, Paul goes on to say that "their foolish heart was darkened." Notice that Paul says they knew God, in the past tense. Then he says they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. So maybe Paul is talking about people who used to believe in God but no longer do because of their foolishness or their suppression of the truth.

You may wonder why I'm resisting the conclusion that everybody knows God exists when that seems at first glance to be what Paul is saying. I have a few reasons for being unsure in spite of what Paul said.

The first reason is because Paul says these people suppress the truth. It seems at least possible to me that a person who was suppressing the truth in unrighteousness might have some success in doing so. People can fool themselves or manipulate themselves into believing things that aren't true and that they ought to know aren't true.

Second, in Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Granted, it may be a foolish thing to say, but it seems to me that if you're saying something in your heart, then you probably believe it. Either that, or you're trying to convince yourself, in which case it's possible to succeed.

Third, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, it says that some people do not receive a love of the truth so as to be saved, and because they do not love the truth, God sends them a deluding influence to cause them to believe what is false. So why couldn't it be the case that some people actually believe that God does not exist? This passage seems to allow for it.

Fourth, I just have a hard to believing that all the atheists I've talked to are lying. I've run into a lot of people for whom deconversion was a painful process. They wanted to believe but couldn't bring themselves to do it. Also, a lot of atheists act like you're a moron for being a theist. Maybe they're grandstanding, but it sure seems like they actually believe theism is foolish. Some of them think we are lying. Mark Twain defined faith as "believing what you know ain't so."

Fifth, even among people who remain Christians, they sometimes have serious doubts. I remember reading on a message board that somebody who had read Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion, was really shaken up by it. This person didn't abandon their faith in the end, but their doubts were probably honest. If a person can honestly have doubts about the existence of God, then I don't see why they couldn't have doubts that were substantial enough to undermine belief in God and cause them to think God doesn't actually exist or that there isn't sufficient reason to think God exists.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all these atheists who used to be Christians and who struggled with their deconversion are just lying. Even if that's true, it seems like we ought to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they're being honest, then at least we will not have lost our audience by offending them. And if they're lying, what difference does it make to us? That's between them and God. We can still offer arguments. Our arguments may not persuade them if they already secretly believe, but maybe the arguments can make them uncomfortable with their denial until they finally repent of their unrighteous suppression of the truth. So whether they're lying or not, arguing with them can still serve a purpose.

If I were an honest atheist, and if I were convinced that Paul was saying that nobody was an honest atheist, then I'd know Romans was not the word of God. That would tend to disconfirm scripture in my mind which would cast doubt on Christianity as a whole. Imagine if you were thinking of the number three, and a prophet came along and told you that you were thinking of a different number. Well, you'd know with certainty that the prophet was wrong because you have direct and immediate access to the contents of your own thoughts. You know what number you're thinking of with far more certainty than you know that this person is actually a prophet.

Of course there is such a thing as denial. What does that mean, though? Does a person who is in denial actually know something, but refuse to affirm it or be honest with themselves about it? Do they know that they know? I'm not sure, but I suppose if it's possible to be in denial about something, then maybe you don't necessarily know the content of your own beliefs with certainty.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The moral argument for presuppositional onlyism

I think "presuppositional onlyism" is a phrase I invented a while back. I'm not sure if I've ever heard other people use it or not. What I mean by it is the view that the presuppositional method of doing apologetics is the only right way to do apologetics. So if you're an onlyist, then you'll reject evidentialism or classical apologetics (and whatever other methods of doing apologetics there might be). You see, my philosophy has always been that a sound argument is a sound argument, whether it's presuppositional, evidential, or whatever. I'm a "sound argument onlyist," and I don't care what kind of argument it is as long as it's sound. I think we should use all the tools of reason that God gave us to arrive at truths to the best of our ability.

People hold to presuppositional onlyism for different reasons. Some people subscribe to it because evidential arguments only give us probabilities at best whereas presuppositional arguments give us certainty. Other people think evidential arguments are completely worthless and presuppositional arguments are the only sound arguments. But then there's the presuppositional onlyists who object to any other method of doing apologetics on moral grounds. It isn't that evidential arguments are fallacious or unpersuasive, but that it's immoral to use them. Presuppositional arguments are the only arguments that glorify God.

I want to respond to a particular moral argument that James White has often made for presuppositional onlyism. Before I do, let me give a brief explanation of the difference between presuppositionalism and evidentialism.

An evidentialist will start with premises he hopes the other person will accept. He tries to find common ground between the other person so there'll be a starting place for the discussion to go forward. Then he tries to show that God exists either because God's existence can be deduced from those premises or the premises increase the likelihood that God exists. Presuppositionalists, on the other hand, don't argue to the existence of God. Rather, they argue from the existence of God. God is a presupposition. It's a foundational item of knowledge upon which all other knowledge is built. A presuppositionalist will argue that if you don't presuppose God, then nothing else makes sense. No argument against God can be coherent since arguments depend on logic, and logic depends on God, so any argument against God is self-refuting and incoherent. The denial of God undermines the necessary preconditions for rational thought, so God cannot be rationally denied.

James White opposes any method of apologetics that involves arguing to the existence of God on the basis that doing so amounts to "putting God on trial." If you present an argument to an atheist for the existence of God, then you are asking the atheist to judge God. But we creatures are in no position to judge God, and asking a God-denier to judge God is downright blasphemous.

I think this is pure sophistry. White is using loaded language in place of sound argumentation to make his case for presuppositional onlyism. The phrase, "putting God on trial," has a very negative connotation to it. It conjures up an image of God being placed on the witness stand and being accused of immorality while mere sinful creatures debate whether God is worthy to be salvaged or gotten rid of. That does paint a negative picture, but this is all spin and sophistry. If you really look at what's going on, there's nothing immoral about it. All we are doing is using our own powers of intellect to try to figure out whether the proposition, "God exists," is true or not.

Not only is there nothing immoral about that, but it's actually something we all must do. There's no escaping it. Even presuppositionalists have to do it. Belief is something you do with your mind, and you have nothing but your own mind with which to do your believing. So you have no choice but to use your own cognitive faculties to the best of your ability to distinguish between what is true and what is false. Any item of knowledge whatsoever that you could possibly have is an item of knowledge that you must use your own intellectual faculties to either affirm or deny. It cannot possibly be immoral to ponder the question, "Does God exist?" since one cannot affirm or deny the existence of God without pondering that question. To ponder that question and attempt to answer it does not amount to "putting God on trial."

Presuppositionalists do not escape this situation merely by presupposing the existence of God. After all, how do they know they ought to presuppose the existence of God? You see, presuppositional arguments barely differ from evidential arguments if you think about it. Consider the argument above that I gave. The argument goes something like this:

* If there is no God, then there could be no logic, knowledge, or reason.
* There is logic, knowledge, and reason.
* Therefore, there is a God.
When a presuppositionalist tries to show an atheist the incoherence in his worldview and that the atheist must borrow theism from the Christian worldview in order to launch a coherent argument, they are trying to get the atheist to see the necessity of God's existence. In other words, they are giving the atheist a reason to believe in God. They are using the common ground they share with atheists--logic--as a premise in an argument for God. How is that any less "putting God on trial," then using the moral realism as a premise in an argument for God? It is because of presuppositional arguments that presuppositionalists are so confident that God exists. They think these arguments are sound.

James White has no problem arguing about the nature of God with people who do not share his view. He has debated modalists and Arians on the trinitarian nature of God. In those debates, you had sinners on each side offering Biblical evidence in support of what they thought was the correct view of God. Was that putting God on trial? I never heard White argue that unless the Jehovah's Witness presupposes the doctrine of the Trinity, they cannot launch a rational argument. No, he uses the evidence from language, scripture, reason, and logic to deduce that God is a trinity. He began with the common ground he had with the Jehovah's Witness--the inerrancy of Scripture--and he argued to the Trinity. He did not argue from the Trinity.

In Acts 2, Peter stood up before an unbelieving crowd and made an argument for the resurrection of Jesus. He quoted David as saying, "Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay." Then he pointed to the occupied tomb of David (in contrast to the empty tomb of Jesus) as evidence that David was not talking about himself but was, instead, looking forward to the resurrection of Christ--a descendent of David who Peter identified as the same Jesus that crowd had crucified by the hands of godless men. Was Peter putting Jesus on trial by presenting this evidence and making this argument to an unbelieving crowd?

I don't see how an argument that has true premises and valid reasoning can be immoral. Are we supposed to not think about the premises and the logical connection between them? Or are we just not supposed to say them out loud? Or are we not supposed to find them persuasive? Consider the argument from the resurrection of Jesus. Is it immoral to say or think, "Jesus would not have risen from the dead if YHWH were not the one true God"? Maybe not. Maybe the sin comes when we follow it immediately with, "Jesus was risen from the dead." But, oh my goodness, far be it from a sinner to ever see the logical connection between these two statements and draw the inference that "YHWH is the one true God." And if they do venture into this dangerous territory, I suppose it would be utter blasphemy to ever share this line of thought with an atheist. Turning my sarcasm off, now, I find it utterly absurd to think that arguing evidentially for the existence of God is immoral.

It does not dishonor God to argue evidentially. God created us to argue this way, and there's no Biblical prohibition that restricts our tools of reason and logic to everything except God. And since we have no choice but to use our ability think in order to distinguish between true and false, we must use our ability to think in order to affirm or deny the existence of God. If that's immoral, and I don't see how it possibly could be, then thank God for his mercy and grace because we're stuck and can do no other.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Formal and informal fallacies

A formal fallacy is a violation of the rules of formal logic. Let me give you an example. This is a syllogism in formal logic called modus tollens.

* If P, then Q.
* Not Q.
* Therefore, not P.
In the first premise, there are two parts. The first part is called the antecedent because it comes before the second part. The second part is called the consequent because it is the consequence of the first part.

The second premise denies the consequent. This is a valid rule of a logic. If your argument follows this pattern, then it's formally valid. But now look at this argument:

* If P, then Q.
* Not P.
* Therefore, not Q.
Notice in this case that instead of denying the consequent, the second premise denies the antecedent. This is a logical fallacy. It makes the syllogism invalid. The conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. The name of this fallacy is the fallacy of denying the antecedent. Another related fallacy is called affirming the consequent. It looks like this:
* If P, then Q.
* Q.
* Therefore, P.
This syllogism is also invalid. There is a valid syllogism that affirms the antecedent, though. It goes like this:
* If P, then Q.
* P.
* Therefore, Q.
That's a valid syllogism called modus ponens.

So basically there are two kinds of valid hypothetical syllogisms. Modus tollens denies the consequent, and modus ponens affirms the antecedent. There are two fallacies to screw these syllogisms up--affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent. You don't have to memorize these because it's plainly evident just by looking at the syllogisms whether they are valid or not. Thankfully, God created us with minds capable of grasping the basic laws of logic merely by introspection. It just requires careful thought and consideration.

These fallacies I just explained are called formal logical fallacies. They differ from informal logical fallacies. The major difference is that there are no exceptions when it comes to formal logical fallacies, but almost all informal logical fallacies have exceptions. There are informal fallacies without exceptions (like the straw man fallacy), but most of them have exceptions. I want to give just two examples.

One informal logical fallacy is called the fallacy of composition. This is a mistake in reasoning where you say something like, "Since all the parts have property X, it follows that the whole thing has that same property." For example, if somebody said that because every part of the car is inexpensive, it follows that the whole car is inexpensive. That's a mistake. However, there is an exception to the fallacy of composition. Here's an example of an argument from composition that is not a fallacy. "Every pixel on the screen is red; therefore, the whole screen is red." That's obviously not a fallacy.

Another informal logical fallacy is called the argument from silence. This is a mistake in reasoning where you say that because such and such isn't evident it follows that such and such isn't the case. For example, suppose I say, "I don't see a spider in this room; therefore, there's no spider in this room." That's a mistake because spiders are very small, and there may be lots of places a spider could be hiding. But suppose I said, "I don't see an elephant in the room; therefore, there's no elephant in the room." Well, that's not a mistake. So what's the difference? The fallacy of argument from silence is only committed when there is no reason to expect that if something were the case, then it would be evident. If there is reason to expect that if something were the case then it would be evident, then one can draw the conclusion that it is not the case based on lack of evidence without committing a fallacy. Since I should expect to see an elephant if it were in the room, but there's no reason to expect that I'd see any spider that was in the room, I can make a valid argument from silence about the absence of an elephant in my room, but if I make the same argument about a lack of spiders, then I've committed an informal fallacy.

The reason I'm making this post is because I see a lot of people learning informal fallacies, then throwing them around willy nilly without recognizing that there are exceptions to them. If something follows the basic pattern, they'll name the fallacy and pretend like they've won the argument. We'd all like to improve our critical thinking skills, and learning about informal fallacies can help. However, if you don't also have an understanding that there are exceptions to informal fallacies, then learning their names without knowing when exception apply will actually make you a more sloppy thinker.

There are some people who intentionally use informal fallacies in their arguments because they're counting on the other person not to understand these subtleties. So understanding the exceptions to informal fallacies can also prevent you from being duped.

Most of the web sites I've found on line about informal fallacies do explain the exceptions, but a lot of them don't. There are two books on informal fallacies that are both good in explaining these fallacies, but one of them talks about the exceptions and the other doesn't. Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett discusses the exceptions but The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn doesn't. The good thing about Bluedorn's book, though, is that it's easier for beginners since it's written for kids. Bennett's book can be pretty dry and tedious. One problem with Bennett's book is that there are so many informal fallacies that nobody could possibly remember them all, and Bennet doesn't divide his book up into "common fallacies" and "obscure fallacies."

If every mistake in reasoning a person could make had a name, I suppose you'd end up with a book like Bennett's. I mean we don't really need to have names for mistakes in reasoning at all. It's just that some mistakes in reasoning are very common. It's useful to have names for the common ones. That's why there is such a thing as an informal fallacy. It's just a way of being able to identify a common pattern of mistaken reasoning so that we can recognize it when it happens, point it out in a succinct way without having to explain it, and so we can avoid making the mistake ourselves. But we don't need to have a name for every single mistake in reasoning that a person can make, and I think that's the problem with Bennett's book.

Of course another problem with the Bluedorn book is that it doesn't use the common names to the fallacies. There's an advantage to using common names to them. It's so we can communicate with each other about them and so if you want to read about the same subject from another source, it's easier to see when two people are talking about the same thing.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Kalam cosmological argument and special pleading

An objection I hear a lot to the KCA is that it commits the fallacy of special pleading because it exempts God from the same causal principle that it applies to the universe. If you say the universe requires a cause but you exempt God from requiring a cause, then you're committing the fallacy of special pleading.

This is not a sound criticism. The KCA reaches the conclusion that the universe has a cause from the premise that the universe began to exist, and there are various arguments meant to demonstrate that the universe began to exist. Unless it can be shown that God began to exist, then one cannot draw the same conclusion about God. The arguments that apply to the universe do not apply equally to God, so God is not being arbitrarily exempted from requiring a cause.

The special pleading fallacy can only be invoked when a person makes an arbitrary exception to a general principle (usually solely to avoid an unwanted conclusion). Suppose the first premise in the KCA was, "Everything requires a cause." Well, then it might be special pleading to exempt God, but that's not what the first premise to the KCA says. Rather, it says, "Everything that begins to exist requires a cause." That's why the second premise attempts to show that the universe began to exist. Unless the argument can show that the universe began to exist, it cannot draw the conclusion that the universe requires a cause. It isn't enough for the universe to exist in order to draw that conclusion; it must exist and have a beginning.

But then somebody will say the first premise itself commits the fallacy of special pleading merely by the use of the qualification, "that begins to exist." But this is not an arbitrarily qualification. There is a justification for it. A thing cannot be brought into existence if it already exists. It can only be brought into existence if it doesn't already exist. So if the universe had a beginning and God did not, then there'd be a reason to think the universe needed a cause but God did not. Since there is a justification for the exception or qualification, it doesn't commit the fallacy of special pleading.

Of course there are cosmological arguments that say even things that always exist may require causes. Some people believe God is continuously causing the universe to exist. These people believe that if God removed his sustaining power of causation, the universe would vanish. The first premise in the KCA doesn't deny this. It just makes a more modest claim. At least those things which come into existence require a cause. The first premise doesn't say anything about those things that do not begin to exist. If a person wanted to accuse a cosmological argument of special pleading, they might ought to attack those other arguments, not the KCA.

But even in the case of those other arguments, the expanded causal principle doesn't arbitrarily exclude God. Instead, they make a distinction between necessary things and contingent things. Contingent things require causes and necessary things don't. And again, this distinction is not arbitrarily. The reason necessary things do not require causes is because it's impossible for them to not exist. That's what it means to be necessary. Whatever reasons there are to think contingent things require causes wouldn't apply to necessary things. One reason, for example, might be that it is possible for contingent things to not exist, and that obviously doesn't apply to necessary things.

I think the primary reason the accusation of special pleading comes up so much is because in an attempt to dismiss all cosmological arguments in one go, people kind of lazily lump them all together in some distorted representation that actually does commit the fallacy of special pleading. They'll say something like, "The basic cosmological argument is this: Everything requires a cause; therefore the universe requires a cause; so God exists; but God doesn't have a cause." I got this same impression in my freshmen philosophy class when I first heard "the uncaused cause" argument that was based on Aristotle. But according to Ed Feser, no prominent philosopher in the history of philosophy has ever made that argument, not even Aristotle ("So you think you understand the cosmological argument?" and "Straw men and terra-cotta armies"). It's a straw man, and I think a lot of people want to shoe horn the KCA in such a way that the special pleading fallacy applies because it's an easy way to dismiss the argument without having to address the premises or the defenses of the premises. But just a little reflection ought to make it obvious that the criticism doesn't apply.